House acts to punish Iran

Lawmakers are trying to shut off oil revenues and force an end to nuclear development.

Posted: August 02, 2012

WASHINGTON - The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to slap sanctions on Iran's energy, shipping and financial industries, convinced that increasing the economic pressure on Tehran will force it to abandon its suspected nuclear weapons program.

By a vote of 421-6, the House backed the legislation that builds on the current penalties directed at financial institutions that do business with Iran's central bank. The Senate is expected to easily pass the measure and send it to President Obama for his signature.

"Ultimately, we will all be judged by a simple question: Did we stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapons capability?" said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., Fla.) during the House debate. "If the answer is no - if we fail - then nothing else matters. If we fail, it would be of no comfort to the American people, whose security and future would be put in danger. If we fail, it would be of no comfort to our ally Israel, whose very existence would be put in danger."

Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Sen. Tim Johnson (D., S.D.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, negotiated the compromise bill.

The legislation would impose sanctions on anyone who mines uranium with Iran; sells, leases or provides oil tankers to Tehran; or provides insurance to the National Iranian Tanker Co., the state-run shipping line.

The bill seeks to undermine Iran's ability to repatriate revenue from the sale of crude oil.

The bill would penalize anyone who works in Iran's petroleum, petrochemical or natural-gas sector, or helps Tehran's oil and gas industry by providing goods, services, technology or infrastructure.

Separately this week, President Obama announced new penalties on Tehran's energy sector and on foreign banks in China and Iraq that the United States says help the Islamic republic evade international penalties.

The United States and Europe insist that the penalties are working. Iran has exported 2.5 million barrels of oil a day to Europe, China, India, Japan, and South Korea.

U.S. officials say the penalties have reduced Iran oil exports to less than 1.8 million barrels a day, costing Tehran about $63 million daily.

The compromise bill would target the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and anyone who assists the paramilitary group, including foreign government agencies.

The bill also would deny visas and freeze assets on individuals and companies that supply Iran with technology that could be used against its citizens, such as tear gas, rubber bullets and surveillance equipment.

The bill extends those sanctions on human-rights violators to Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad's regime is accused of a bloody crackdown against protesters.

The bill also requires companies that trade on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose any Iran-related business to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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